BOSTON -- B.J. Upton is settling in at the plate after a slow start to the month.
The center fielder entered Sunday's series finale with the Red Sox on a nine-game hitting streak. Going into the game, he was batting .421 with two homers, four doubles and four RBIs during the streak, with six multihit games. In his first 14 games in May, Upton went 8-for-50.
Manager Joe Maddon has noticed a change in Upton's approach at the plate.
"He's more aggressive on pitches in the zone that he can really deal with," Maddon said. "He's more on time, and while he's doing that, I still think his strike zone is organized. But I like his mental aggressive approach to his at-bats, and that's what we're seeing as different."
For the season, Upton has a .303 average with four homers and 16 RBIs. The last time his average was this high this late in the season was on June 3, 2008, when he was hitting .307.
"He's definitely feeling better about himself," Maddon said. "He's hitting a wider variety of pitchers, and pitches also, which is good. He's on top of his game right now."
Upton's done it all for the Rays in their last three games. He picked up his fifth outfield assist of the year on Saturday, throwing out Dustin Pedroia at home. He had the fifth walk-off hit of his career on Wednesday, an 11th-inning double that beat the Blue Jays. On Friday he stole his ninth base in his last 14 games, and he leads the American League in steals, with 11.
Rays unused to being on wrong end of walk-off
BOSTON -- The Rays were on the losing end of a walk-off victory on Saturday night for the first time in nearly a year.
Closer Fernando Rodney blew his first save of the season, allowing a pinch-hit, two-run walk-off homer to Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, resulting in the Rays' 3-2 loss. The defeat snapped Tampa Bay's 12-game win streak in games decided in walk-off fashion, dating back to last July 23 vs. Kansas City.
"It felt unusual, it didn't feel real good, but it happens," said manager Joe Maddon. "This whole game is all about things balancing out at some point. I didn't even realize [the streak], but I did know it was an awkward feeling."
It was the first pinch-hit walk-off home run ever allowed by the Rays.
Rodney hadn't allowed a walk-off home run since his second Major League game, which was more than a decade ago, on May 8, 2002, when he was with the Angels. He had a chance to tie the club record for consecutive saves to start a season with (16) but is now 15-for-16 in save chances. The right-hander wanted to remain perfect for the year, but Saltalamacchia put an end to those aspirations with his laser over the Boston bullpen in right field.
"I know someday that's going to happen to me," Rodney said. "I'm going to continue working my routine and we'll see what happens."
Both Rodney and setup man Joel Peralta have pitched in each of the last two games. When Maddon met with the media prior to Sunday's game, he was unsure if either would be available for the series finale.
"Any time one of our relievers has a tough game, I really like to get him back out as quickly as possible after that," Maddon said. "I have to find out from [Fernando] and Joel -- they both pitched the last two days in a row. For the most part, the bullpen should be in good shape, but I want to make sure Joel and Fernando are fine for today."
Peralta has worked 1-2-3 eighth innings in each of the first two games of the series. Rodney picked up his 15th save in Friday's 7-4 win.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.